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Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Campaign Will Move the Needle

By Motley Fool Staff - Sep 7, 2018 at 8:07AM

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Investors are probably still wondering which way, though.

In this segment from the MarketFoolery podcast, host Chris Hill and senior analyst Matt Argersinger discuss the most buzzworthy marketing move in the athletic apparel and footwear space in quite some time: Nike's (NKE 0.58%) decision to hitch its wagon to the social justice star of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

It's a fairly bold maneuver, and it's generating kudos and boos from exactly the places that anyone remotely tuned in to current events would expect. The question for Fools, though, is whether it's going to be a net gain for the company and whether it offers an opportunity for its rivals.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Sept. 4, 2018.

Chris Hill: Nike shares are falling a bit this morning on the news of Nike's latest ad campaign. This is the 30th anniversary of the iconic Just Do It campaign. It features Colin Kaepernick, a photo of Colin Kaepernick with the inscription, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It." I'm sure Nike knew exactly what they were doing when they picked Colin Kaepernick, when they picked this ad campaign. I'm sure they knew that there was going to be -- as there is, there is some backlash from people who don't like the protests that Kaepernick has undertaken over the last couple of years. Even with the stock dropping about 3%, Nike shares still up 25% year to date.

Matt Argersinger: Yeah. What's the old adage, any news is good news?

Hill: Any publicity is good publicity.

Argersinger: Right, and advertising, it's something just like that. Any attention is good attention. That's exactly what Nike's getting, because we're talking about it and millions of people are. If you check Twitter and Facebook, everyone's engaging with it on social media. It's big news. Nike has a reputation for making bold calls. I think this, for them, is going to be a couple of steps forward, one step back. I think there's going to be a little bit of outrage. Some people are going to say, "I'm never buying Nike again," and then of course they will few months later. It gets them in the news, alienate some fans, but I think Nike's going to get more value out of this than they lose. That's what they do with a lot of these. I remember, Dennis Rodman at one point had a big campaign with Nike when they launched a shoe. He had a bit of a rep, and he still does. They've had celebrities or sports athletes who have ultimately moved the needle for them and caused a lot of stir, but it's usually for the benefit of Nike.

Hill: I'm not a Nike shareholder, though I certainly wish I have been over the last 10 years. I am an Under Armour shareholder. Looking at it through the lens of Nike's competitors, I'm watching this story play out, and selfishly, I would love to imagine that this presents an amazing opportunity for Under Armour and for Adidas, any of those competitors. I don't know that it ultimately does. As is often the case with sports retail, it comes down to the equipment. It comes down to, how good are the shoes? Yes, marketing is part of it. But Under Armour, back in the heyday of Under Armour, it was because they were making athletic apparel that really resonated with athletes and weekend warrior types and all that sort of thing. In the case of Nike, yeah, you look over the last 30 years of the Just Do It campaign and various campaigns, they're not immune to putting out controversial ad campaigns. It certainly hasn't hurt the long-term performance of the business or the stock.

Argersinger: No. I think Nike's one of the few companies that has... I'm searching for the right word, maybe gravitas, to do something like this. If Under Armour had done this, it'd feel like more of like an all-in bet, like Under Armour is making a pretty controversial statement, they're trying to really galvanize themselves, the brand, in front of a select audience. There could have been a lot more backlash. It could have turned against them. With Nike, I think Nike has that reputation, going back decades, of doing things like this. Like I said, I think the loyal Nike shopper who might be a little mystified by this, in a couple of months, they're back probably buying Nike again, just because they love the product.

Hill: And we did see a smaller sports apparel version of what we saw play out with Facebook earlier this year, where you had people, because of privacy concerns, upset at Facebook. They said, "That's it. I'm shutting down my Facebook account. I'm only going to be on Instagram now." I saw a few people on Twitter who were like, "I'm never buying Nike again, I'm only buying Converse." It's like, I hate to break it to you, but Nike also owns Converse.

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